DERBY LINE — Most people have heard of the United Way, but not everyone knows exactly what they do. From her office above Community National Bank in Derby Line, Madeleine Roy, the Community Development and Marketing Director for Green Mountain United Way, is working to change that.
“I have many people ask me what it is the United Way does, so I spend a lot of time answering this question,” Roy said.
The United Way mission is to mobilize communities, and create lasting changes in local conditions that will improve lives. They are a worldwide organization that has been around for 130 years now. There are eight United Way organizations in the state of Vermont. Green Mountain United Way covers five counties, including Orleans county.
They are behind some popular local programs, including a grant that they awarded to the Green Mountain Farm to School program, which established the community garden in Newport.
“We are a health and human service organization, and we do community assessment, trying to find strengths and weakness in a specific area,” Roy said. “We see what the cause of a problem might be, and focus heavily on prevention. Our priorities are education and health.”
A while back a study came out that 53 percent of children in the Northeast Kingdom do not have the basic skills they need when they start their education. This is a problem that the Green Mountain United Way is working to address.
“How many times have you been in a grocery store, and a child is sitting in the shopping cart, with the parent paying no attention to the child?” Roy asks. “We discovered that this can be a good learning experience for the child, a time to engage them and work with them to develop the basic skills they need before entering school. The parent could work with the child to learn numbers, or teach them the color of the bananas. What we do in this example is collaborate with parents and organizations, providing them the tools and techniques to get kids to start learning immediately.”
Low income is another issue in the Newport area that the Green Mountain United Way is working to address.
“Again, we focus on prevention, hosting financial literacy workshops to students and adults, teaching the basics of budgeting, savings, and credit.”
Green Mountain United Way also works with other non-profit organizations, networking within different groups. Through their website they established a volunteer network to connect people with a place to volunteer in a specific area, working as a conduit for organizations looking to find volunteers.
One of the biggest fundraising efforts Green Mountain United Way does is called a “business campaign.” Local businesses allow them to come in and talk with their employees, asking them to pledge a certain portion of their paycheck to the organization. About 60 percent of their funding is done this way, but that money stays local. North Country Hospital, Price Chopper, Shaws, and Community National Bank are some of the biggest supporters of their work.
For more information, visit the Green Mountain United Way online.